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Henry
from London, England. Living in Chicago, IL
Innovation Consultant, Struggling Artist, Wannabe Scientist
Interests: innovation, creativity, particles and waves, noise, the speed of light, evolution, density, numbers
Recent Activity
I’ve just bought two sake cups from a potter in South Korea. It feels to me worth letting that statement stand by itself a little. Not because I want to show how cool I am, although I must admit that I am rather proud of my purchase, but because the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at Man of String
In this second of two posts I describe a new business paradigm that is quietly emerging across all our major industries. A small number of pioneer organizations have reinvented the way they manage their resources, encouraging the flow of ideas and information, raw materials and finished goods, employees and customers,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2014 at Man of String
David, great to hear from you. Thanks for your comments. You're right, it will take a huge cultural and mental shift for Flows to be adopted widely. The idea that in order to extract value from something - or conversely to reduce its harmfulness - we first have to stop it in its tracks is deeply engrained in us. We grasp ideas, attract and retain talent and customers, arrest suspects and imprison criminals, quarantine viruses, dam water, bank money, hoard diamonds, store data, etc. etc. almost endlessly. And so asking how we might extract value from something on the go or in flow is somewhat counter-intuitive. Yet there are a small but increasing number of examples, and all the examples demonstrate greater overall effectiveness over the default solutions. So you're right, there is a huge relearning that needs to be done. I'm ready to get to it! Interestingly on mixtures, some physical pipelines do allow product to mix during transportation and then separate elements out later. And there's a kind of battery which may be suited to storing energy from renewable sources (wind, solar etc which, are by the way, all flows) known as Flow Batteries, and the most promising type are called membraneless flow batteries, allowing liquids laminar flow across one another. So you have to look hard but the principles of Flow- based solutions are around and that's how I got to the emerging flow paradigm in the first place. Thanks again. Let me know what you think of Part 2,which I think will help clarify a little. Best, Henry
Hi Ewan, great to hear from you. Good question. I agree that functions are the dominant design for building expertise. Historically this is where we have always generated value, from the building, accumulating and protecting of resources of all types, including expertise. Too often, however, the protection of resources by a function (or silo) can reduce the fitness or effectiveness of other parts of the system outside the silo. Hence organizations are not as effective in toto as they could be if expertise, knowledge and other resources flowed more freely through and beyond them. I don't know if a matrix is the answer organizationally as it creates yet more cells which inevitably start to accumulate their own resources to rationalize and defend their existence. I have been thinking about circulatory systems instead and, conceptually at least, about pumping stations and water towers and pumps more generally and will post a piece on pumping stations if that would be interesting. In brief, we tend to think that ideas will, by nature, flow freely through organizations. The reality is that they don't, and that the structures and processes we put in place to manage them,like functions and stage gates, serve only to stop them, not propel them forward. Pumps by contrast have the purpose and property of pulling product towards them and pushing them out the other side, and pumping stations have the purpose of maintaining pressure on the line to ensure the continued flow of product through it.What might it mean to envisage the organization as a circulatory system where expertise can be increased not just in a function but in the flow itself? Or maybe to envisage customer flows as pipelines, and functions as pumping stations which enrich and propel the flow through themselves? This would certainly require resetting incentives as well as traditional modes of thinking and behaving, but I believe it would ultimately improve overall organizational effectiveness. I'd be happy to discuss this in more detail if that would be helpful to you. Thanks again and I hope you enjoy part 2, coming in a couple of days. Best, Henry
There is a revolution going on across all our major industries, albeit one that has been hiding in plain view until now. A small number of pioneer organizations have reinvented the way they manage their resources, encouraging the flow of ideas and information, raw materials and finished goods, employees and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2014 at Man of String
If you were asked to come up with a list of the most important inventions of all time, the chances are that you’d include among them agriculture, writing, the internet, the steam engine, the printing press, the car, and the airplane. If you’re young enough you might include the iPod... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2014 at Man of String
Back in 2010 I made a prediction, based on my theory of Invasive Species, that the pre-IPO Tesla would go on to be a successful business. On Thursday, February 13, 2014 the company’s stock temporarily passed the $200 mark, giving the company a market value of half that of GM.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at Man of String
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Q: Where is everything? A: It’s behind you! The inflationary model of the universe is widely accepted but only narrowly liked. It provides an answer to a problem but only if you’re willing to accept that it’s OK to break the laws of physics at the beginning of creation because... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2013 at Man of String
This article was originally published in Fast Co. Design on August 4th, 2011 At a time when we are constantly being told to value the new and the different, it may come as a surprise to learn that the standard, the shared and the common can be strong drivers of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2012 at Man of String
This piece was originally posted in Fast Co. Design, March 8th 2012 They may play tricks on us and may not be always reliable, but our memories dictate which experiences we choose to repeat and which we don’t. Why not then design for memory instead of experience? If you had... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2012 at Man of String
As a child, growing up in a small town in south east England, the milkman was one of the most visible supporting players in our community’s life. Once or twice a week he’d show up early in the morning and you could often hear him before you saw him, driving... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2012 at Man of String
Invasive species spread rapidly once they’ve secured their niche. Zebra mussels have spread the length of the Mississippi in only two decades or so. The killer bees have spread into large parts of both South and North America within 50 years. Some species seem to spread almost as soon as... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2011 at Man of String
Invasive weeds often take advantage of under-utilized and overlooked resources. Native plants typically gravitate towards the most nutrient-rich soils and towards the places with their preferred level of light and water. In other words they tend to exploit the low-hanging fruit, the resources that are the easiest to get to.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2011 at Man of String
There is growing evidence that hybridization between non-natives and native species among animals, plants and microbes can give rise to invasiveness. The advantage of hybridization is clearly the combination of the characteristics of the native species that have allowed them to adapt to their current environment with those of the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2011 at Man of String
More often than not, invasive species seem to make conditions in their new environment more hospitable to other potential invaders. In some cases they do this by removing native predators or competitors. On Christmas Island the invasive crazy yellow ant attacks the native red land crab. The crab itself preys... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2011 at Man of String
Invasive species tend to find significant opportunities for success in two quite different types of ecosystem. As described previously in Principle #3, the first is the isolated ecosystem, the type that has not suffered any kind of external shock for so long that its inhabitants have evolved no defense mechanisms... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2011 at Man of String
Invasive species in nature are, literally, outsiders. They travel from their native habitats, often hitching a lift from our global transportation, trade and tourism networks, to arrive in an unfamiliar place possibly thousands of miles from home. In the USA alone, killer bees from Africa via Brazil, kudzu from Japan,... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2011 at Man of String
Invasive species develop earlier and shorter reproductive cycles that allow them to get to precious energy sources earlier than their native competitors. Eurasian watermilfoil is an aquatic plant that arrived in the United States, probably as a stowaway in the ballast tanks of a cargo ship, some time before the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2011 at Man of String
Invasive species are the disruptive innovators of the natural world. They share certain characteristics that can be applied to principles for innovation in the business world. In a March 2010 post I introduced this theory at greater length and promised that I would describe the invasive pricinples in future posts.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2011 at Man of String
Previously I’ve argued that we want a better version of nature, one that we can control, and that technology is the answer to the question of how we’re going to accomplish our goal. But why would we want to control nature in the first place? The short answer is that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2011 at Man of String
In my previous post I stated that we want to control and improve on nature, and that technology is what we use to achieve our goals. In other words, technology is in the process of becoming second nature, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. What proof of this... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2011 at Man of String
I am by no means the first to notice that technology and nature are deeply and increasingly intertwined. In a way that I think somewhat echoes Brian Arthur’s view of technology in his 2009 book “The Nature of Technology”, I see a feedback loop going on between our discoveries and... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2011 at Man of String
Back in 1995 one of my closest friends, Stevie Zimmerman, introduced me to “Out of Control” by Kevin Kelly. The book was a revelation. Kelly opened my eyes to what felt like an almost entirely new and very exciting world, even though I had been working in the field of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2011 at Man of String
This being Father's Day and my children being on a mini-vacation at their Grandparents' cabin, I got to choose today's activities for myself and Mrs King. And on something of a whim I suggested that we go visit the Chicago Botanic Garden. Wikipedia describes it a 385-acre "living plant museum"... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2010 at Man of String
It sometimes takes reading about a subject several times from different sources to pick up on something that should have been evident the very first time but somehow wasn’t. Or at least that’s how it is with me. For instance, I recently read Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody” and... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2010 at Man of String